Bridging fragile relationships and building peace in Kushari

Kushari in Maiduguri, Nigeria, has had a history of conflicts between members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) dating back to 2014, when people fleeing the violence began arriving into the community from nearby Gwoza.

Both sides have accused the other of mistreatment and disregard for security rules. Displaced persons often alleged that the CJTF visited their villages and compelled them to take up arms against Boko Haram. This act, they felt, resulted in retaliation from the insurgents which in turn meant having to leave their homes and flee for refuge in Kushari.

An IDP traditional leader shared that "if the CJTF had not compelled us to pick up sticks and clubs against Boko Haram in our villages, they wouldn’t have turned on us for revenge. We would have cultivated our crops and lived happily with our families, and our villages still safe.” The CJTF, on the other hand, accused IDPs of being Boko Haram sympathisers who abetted the insurgents and refused CJTF any support in defeating the insurgents.

Through International Alert’s social cohesion Ido da Ido project, we begun a series of collaborative activities with all parties. We trained traditional community leaders in peacebuilding and using conflict-sensitive approaches when dealing with issues that arise in the community. Dialogue and mediation meetings were convened, bringing together host communities, IDPs and members of the CJTF. These meetings provided a platform for all parties to air their grievances and seek a collective path to peaceful co-existence.

Jummai Abba, an IDP woman leader who participated in the trainings and dialogue meetings, says,

We have been greatly touched by the peace messaging shared by the various community leaders and we believe this is the right time for us to strengthen our fragile relationships and work together, besides none of us is the Boko Haram here.

In the past, the conflict, mistrust and fear between the groups meant that the CJTF refused children of IDPs mingle and play with the children from Kushari. Massa Alou, an IDP, tells us how things have now changed in the community because of the project: “International Alert’s activities have brought us together. I never thought I would see a day like this, where IDPs and host communities will reconcile and begin to live in harmony.” With harmony returning to Kushari community, this has eased the local policing and security process as well. Bulama Abba, a CJTF Vice Unit Commander confirms,

Resolving our differences with IDPs has made our work easier. There are less disagreements now and better flow of information. Many things now connect us, then divide us.

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